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Assessing and Monitoring Override Medications in Automated Dispensing Devices

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Background: Medication override is not without risk because the absence of pharmacist review may increase the potential for a medication error. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Department of Pharmacy and Therapeutics assessed the safety of the automated dispensing device (ADD) override process to reduce the number of override medications stored in the ADD.

Methods: A representative expert panel developed criteria for override access and revised the override medication list; an override monitoring tool was used to perform random audits and determine nursing compliance; and changes in override practices for use of opioids, a high-alert medication class, were measured.

Results: The expert panel reduced the number of medications and dosage forms on the override list by 42%, from 119 different medications (in 244 different dosage forms) in 2001 to 92 different medications (in 163 different dosage forms) by December 2003. By May 2004 the opioid override rates were significantly decreased; although slight increases in rates occurred by December 2004, possibly reflecting the lack of formal override monitoring by nursing and pharmacy, the rates were still significantly lower than the baseline in October 2003.

Conclusion: Pharmacists, in collaboration with the medical and nursing staffs, developed a sustainable process for preventing unauthorized and inappropriate override medication dispensing from ADDs.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2006-06-01

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  • Published monthly, The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety is a peer-reviewed publication dedicated to providing health professionals with the information they need to promote the quality and safety of health care. The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety invites original manuscripts on the development, adaptation, and/or implementation of innovative thinking, strategies, and practices in improving quality and safety in health care. Case studies, program or project reports, reports of new methodologies or new applications of methodologies, research studies on the effectiveness of improvement interventions, and commentaries on issues and practices are all considered.

    David W. Baker, MD, MPH, FACP, executive vice president for the Division of Healthcare Quality Evaluation at The Joint Commission, is the inaugural editor-in-chief of The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety.

    Also known as Joint Commission Journal on Quality Improvement and Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Safety
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